OK, the time is finally here.Â Time for me to breakdown what is going to be an amazing game that will not soon be forgotten.
Let me start out by saying that anyone who thinks they know who is going to win this game is guessing.Â There are too many wildcards and the deeper I peel into this onion the more layers I find.Â Â Luckily that’s never stopped me from prognosticating.
The key to this game will be ball control.Â Both offenses are SO potent that the team that wins will be the one that controls the game.Â The key to doing that isÂ turnovers and time of possession.
Turnovers is the easier of the two categories to break down so I’ll start with that.Â Both teams are giving up 2.3 turnovers per game so it looks to be fairly close.Â However, Cal is forcing 3.0 turnovers per game, much higher than their opponents (Tennessee, Minnesota, Portland St., ASU and Oregon St.) 2.1 turnovers per game were giving up on average.Â Oregon is forcing 2.0 turnovers per game, far LESS than the 2.7 their opponents (Stanford, Fresno St., Oklahoma and ASU) were giving up.Â Â Â I think this tips this category in Cal’s favor.
Time of possesion is a much more murky category.Â Mostly this comes down to the running game and the possession passing game (short slants and outs, screens, etc.).Â Oregon seems to have a statistical advantage in this category running for nearly 240 yards per game.Â That’s a little bit deceiving however because 30 yards per game come from their QB and scrambling does NOT equal possession football.Â Another caveat is that Oregon has played teams particularly susceptible to the run.Â They’re giving up 20 extra yards per game than Cal’s opponents.
Cal on the other hand, has played against teams that are loading the box to slow down a potent run game and is still putting up 160 yards per game.Â The result has been that Cal has burned them long with the passing game.Â Nobody doubts the strength of the Cal running game and I expect Oregon to be more balanced in their defense than Cal’s previous opponents.Â Add to these realities that Oregon is actually giving up more rushing yards per game than it’s opponents are averaging in their games (this was about the only category where either Cal or Oregon was doing significantly worse than their opponents allowed on average) and there is reason to believe that the Cal rushing game will do its part on Saturday.
There are so many areas I could review, but I keep my thoughts to a few remaining areas:
Punting.Â If this game isn’t a shootout, Cal seems to have a substantial advantage in the punting game.Â We’ve all seen how well Larson punts the ball and his 43.8 yard average although good, doesn’t do justice to his high booming kicks.Â There is much to be impressed with Cal’s kick coverage as well often dropping the returner for losses.Â Oregon’s punter on the other hand only has a 36.6. average and supposedly isn’t very consistent.Â That’ll be trouble both from a field position perspective and ifÂ he ever lines one thatÂ Desean Jackson has an opportunity to return.
Scrambling.Â We all know that Longshore is not a scrambing QB although he seems to be doing a good job of avoiding pressure so far.Â However good avoiding pressure is, it’s not nearly the threat that Dixon is with is feet.Â Containment of Dixon will be a key factor on Saturday.
Spread.Â Oregon runs the true spread.Â Cal has a history of struggling against the spread.Â Cal also has not played a spread team thus far this year.Â This is the area that worries me most about the Cal defense.Â If Cal can contain Dixon and keep the spread in check, then Cal will win this game, possibly even convincingly.Â If they can’t, it may be a long day in Berkeley.
In conclusion, my feeling is that this is going to be a great matchup of two very powerful teams.Â Neither team is going to run away with this one, but after looking over all of the numbers, I’m convinced that Cal has what it takes to squeek this one out particularly with the home-field advantage.
Cal 38, Oregon 31.